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Easy Languages Mini-Review: Interviews Around The Globe

Easy Languages – 4.3 

Easy Languages gets people involved from all around the globe —from Brazil to Mongolia — to film authentic interviews about everyday life with locals on the street.

A typical episode format starts with the interviewer (or interviewers) introducing the topic and location for the day. Then, they will approach various locals to ask their opinion or test their knowledge. Only a handful of languages, like Hindi, and Swahili, don’t follow this format — these are also typically the languages with fewer videos.

Easy Languages invites co-producers to join their channel, which means that anyone can apply to create videos, as long as they are filmed according to the Easy Languages guidelines. These co-producers receive multimedia training if they don’t already have experience in the field, so the videos typically have a baseline quality standard (although sometimes the filming can be a bit shaky).

Most of the interviewers have a bubbly personality, and some of them appear in multiple language interviews within Easy Languages. Overall, the interviews are enjoyable and will train your ear to understand a range of voices and accents. Also, for anyone who uses Seedlang for German, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see Cari’s friendly face in the Easy German episodes!

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Reverso Translation Mini-Review: Best for French learners

Reverso Translation – 3.8 

Reverso is a translation and spell check app. Its features primarily target French and English learners, although it also translates into a handful of other languages.

Compared with BonPatron, Reverso’s spell-check function (available only for French and English) is less attuned to general mistakes, such as capitalization or inappropriate commas. Reverso only catches some of the errors related to inappropriate accordance of genders or numbers from “The House of Être” verbs. Nevertheless, it does a decent job of catching obvious mistakes, and it will provide you with synonyms to enrich your writing. You are encouraged to use the spell check function at each stage of the writing process because when you correct one error, the program may identify new ones. The free version allows you to check 1200 characters at a time, and upgrading to a premium version will allow you to check unlimited characters.

The Reverso Contexto dictionary is an excellent resource for most of the available languages. While Linguee takes examples from relatively formal sources, Reverso Contexto provides example sentences professionally translated from movies, dialogues, official documents, websites, and newspapers. 

Other resources include Reverso’s dictionary (which is usually from Collin’s) a verb conjugator, French and English grammar articles, a thesaurus, and a document translator.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

SuperMemo Mini-Review: Not to Be Confused With Super-Memo

Supermemo – 3 

*The app SuperMemo is often confused with Super-Memo

SuperMemo seems to advertise its courses and their efficacy by emphasizing the SuperMemo Method. The website states that it is the only scientifically-proven computer-aided learning method — however, the method is a typical Spaced Repetition System that Brainscape, Anki, Pleco, Skritter, SpanishDict, and countless other resources use. If SuperMemo made any special improvements, they do not stand out.

SuperMemo’s courses can be accessed through a monthly membership or through purchasing individual courses. Each course contains a series of flashcards with some interactive activities (such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice questions, and dropdown menus). In some beginner courses, like Hungarian and Dutch, you can learn basic pronunciation with the International Phonetic Alphabet; this can support you in both understanding and producing the sounds of the language later one. They also use native speaker pronunciation to train your ear.

The Fast Track courses may have potential, but there do not seem to be many grammar explanations, and it may be up to you to understand your errors. Additionally, you may find that you are suddenly reading translations from your target language in Polish, whether or not you speak Polish.

Overall, Supermemo seems okay, but there are probably other resources that will help you learn a language more effectively.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

WordReference Mini-Review: Thorough and Professionally Translated

Wordreference – 4.5 

WordReference is one of the best websites for single-word translations. It uses a combination of its own dictionaries and Collins’, depending on the language, and relies on professional translations rather than machine-translations. With each word you look up, you will receive multiple examples of how to use it, nuances of each meaning, and a list of how to incorporate it into multiple phrases. Whereas sites like Bab.la seem to have machine-translated examples that sound quite random at times, WordReference’s examples can be applied directly to your everyday conversation.

You can also find conjugation tables and the Collins COBUILD English Usage dictionary, which shows you how to use individual English words correctly — through its explanations, English learners will be able to differentiate between words that are easily confused (such as ‘current’ and ‘currant’). If the explanations don’t make sense, you can ask questions in the WordReference Language Forum — there you will find an active community of language learners discussing language learning topics.

Unfortunately, not all words have audio pronunciation, but those that do can be played back at different speeds and with different accents (depending on the language).

Although WordReference is a thorough resource, SpanishDict is probably a better option for Spanish learners, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese. Linguee is also similar to WordReference but specializes in formal language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages.

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The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.

Linguee Mini-Review: Best Dictionary for Formal Language

Linguee – 4.5 

Linguee was developed by over 400 lexicographers. It is unique in that it does not use machine-translation to provide examples of words in context — instead, it sources words from articles and research papers in the original language. As a result, it is an excellent dictionary app to find translations for specialized terminology.

You will learn the subtleties of various translations by reading paired paragraphs of text that have each been professionally translated, not translated by a machine. In some languages, you can listen to pronunciations by native speakers and read multiple translations of your chosen word or phrase.

Although translations are highlighted in each paragraph so you can compare how to use them in each language, they can be difficult to navigate quickly. If you are looking for a website with simple and professional translations, you can check out WordReference for several different languages. SpanishDict is also an excellent option for Spanish, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese.

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The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.

Bab.la Mini-Review: Use WordReference or Linguee Instead

bab.la – 3 

Bab.la is a bilingual dictionary for 28 different languages. Their site includes quizzes, games, grammar lessons, phrasebooks, and a forum for users to discuss language learning. You can also look up various verbs in the conjugation tables or find synonyms and examples of how to use words in context.

Their quizzes should be taken with a grain of salt — If your purpose is to familiarize yourself with vocabulary and grammar structures, then these are probably a fun way to explore your target language. However, if your purpose is to understand the target language’s culture, beware of any quiz that touches on romance, as the advice is similar to that of the magazines found in grocery store checkout lines.

Bab.la may be okay for general definitions, but other sites will probably help you dive further into different languages. Linguee provides examples of words in context sourced from articles and research papers in the target language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages. Also, check out WordReference (for a more relevant database of example sentences), Pleco (for Chinese learners), or SpanishDict (For Spanish learners or Spanish-speaking English learners).

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

FSI Courses Mini-Review: Free, Comprehensive, but Also Outdated

FSI Courses – 4.7 

The Foreign Services Institute developed their language courses to help diplomats quickly reach professional working proficiency in a language. They would attend 5 hours of language instruction per day, plus homework, for 24-88 weeks (depending on the language). The table at the bottom of this page indicates the average time it would take for a student to reach professional working proficiency.

The FSI program places a strong focus on listening comprehension, in addition to extensive exercises for grammar and vocabulary. If you follow along with the audio and respond to the prompts in each drill, you will also develop confidence in speaking the language.

With hundreds of pages of text, dozens of hours of audio, and several levels in many languages, the FSI courses are still probably the most comprehensive, free courses you can follow. Just remember that they are decades old, so the audio is not very clear and the vocabulary often includes both sexist and obsolete language. Also, some of the topics will not be relevant to your everyday life.

Several sites host these free, open-source courses, but the site linked below is organized and easy to navigate. Beware of any site selling courses “originally made for diplomats,” as these are probably free FSI courses with a price tag.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Forvo Mini-Review: Audio Pronunciation of Millions of Words

Forvo – 4.8 

Forvo’s mission is to improve spoken communication across cultures. Anyone can explore pronunciations of millions of words in over 390 languages with maps displaying where each speaker is from. The site also organizes popular categories and essential phrases for when you don’t have a specific word in mind.

As a registered user, you can contribute to the site by pronouncing words or phrases in your native language or by requesting pronunciations in a specific language. You are also encouraged to vote on audio files in your native language to help others identify the best pronunciation. For those of you who enjoy using Anki, Forvo allows you to download mp3 files to use in your learning endeavours.

Forvo also has an e-learning course for French, Spanish, and English; you will find three levels and a group of topics with sets of the most common words in your target language. Using an SRS flashcard system, you will be able to learn the pronunciation of these words and view an example of how to use them in a sentence.

If you are looking for a pronunciation reference guide, look no further than Forvo’s extensive database!

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Optilingo Mini-Review: Use if You Absolutely Love Slideshows

optilingo – 1.5 

Optilingo is essentially a phrase-bank in slideshow form. Each of the 20 languages available includes 100 lessons, none of which contain information about the topic or learning goals during the writing of this review. You can expect to listen to a series of phrases, and then review (what seems like) the last 45 phrases you have learned before moving onto the next lesson.

The phrases are not in flashcard form — instead, they are in a slideshow with both the English and the target language displayed together. Optilingo advertises learning and practicing with over 29 hours worth of phrases, and while you can surely practice with their phrase-bank, actually learning to speak any of the languages offered using their platform is questionable.

If you are keen on language learning, check out our bank of reviews for other resources.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Encore!!! Language Learning Mini-Review: Basically a Phrasebook

Encore!!! Language Learning – 1.5 

Encore!!! Language Learning allows you to listen to playlists of common phrases, vocabulary, conjugations, and dialogues. It varies in terms of whether it uses native speakers or automated text-to-voice.

The app is basically a phrasebook that allows you to practice translating sentences to and from your native language, or simply repeat after an audio in your target language. You can listen to a pre-made playlist, mute or unmute certain phrases within a playlist, adjust the number of repetitions of each phrase, or create your own playlist. You can also test your memory with the Test tool by reading prompts in your native language and translating into your target language.

The app seems to focus more on understanding grammar structures than other phrasebook sites like Optilingo or Lingohut. Technically you could learn something by repeating the phrases aloud, but there are many other free apps that provide a clearer learning path and have a more intuitive interface than Encore!!! Language Learning.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.